What Is Apomorphine Used For?
Apomorphine is a type of dopamine agonist used for treating certain symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Specifically, apomorphine is used for treating "off" episodes, which are periods of muscle stiffness, slow movements, and trouble initiating movements. It is thought that a deficiency of a certain brain chemical (dopamine) may be responsible for several symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Apomorphine works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain.
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Apomorphine hydrochloride (Apokyn®) is an injectable Parkinson's disease medication. This prescription medication is approved to treat "off" episodes (periods of muscle stiffness, slow movements, and trouble initiating movements) that occur in people with Parkinson's disease. Often, these off episodes occur despite optimal treatment with other Parkinson's medications. Apomorphine is used to treat each episode as needed (up to five times a day); it is not taken on a schedule and is not used to prevent off episodes.
Parkinson's disease results from the loss of neurons in a region of the brain that controls movement. This creates a shortage of the neurotransmitter (brain-signaling chemical) known as dopamine, causing movement problems that are characteristic of Parkinson's disease. The exact cause of Parkinson's disease is not currently known.
Although early symptoms of Parkinson's disease may be subtle, people will eventually develop a characteristic tremor (trembling or shaking) of a limb, especially when the body is at rest. As the disease progresses, symptoms may worsen and new ones may appear.
Depending on the severity of a person's symptoms, Parkinson's disease treatment can include:
- Lifestyle changes and support
- Medications (see Parkinson's Disease Medications)
Because apomorphine almost always causes severe nausea and vomiting, a nausea/vomiting medication called trimethobenzamide (Tigan®) must be taken every day, starting three days before starting apomorphine and continuing for at least two months. Although some people may be able to stop taking trimethobenzamide, many will need to continue this medication as long as they take apomorphine.